BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 1, 2013) – Antron Brown and his Matco Tools crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald have been saying for several weeks that their plan was to peak at the right time to defend their NHRA Top Fuel world championship.

After winning two Mello Yello Series titles early in the season, the team began experimenting in preparation for another championship run.

Despite falling to sixth in points heading into this weekend’s U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis, the Matco brain trust proved Sunday their plan is on track.

Going to the starting line late Sunday afternoon for his final qualifying session, Brown was sitting in the 16th and last position for Monday’s championship eliminations.

Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher was in the pair right before Brown and Schumacher was not yet qualified but he ripped off a time that sent him to the No. 1 spot.

And then Brown and his Matco team went out and ran 3.811 seconds to take over the pole and bump his teammate to the No. 2 spot heading to Sunday’s eliminations, which begin at 11 a.m.

“We planned on it. We really planned on it going out there for that last lap and doing that,” Brown said. “We’ve been tip-toeing up on a time like that all week. On that last run, Brian and Mark and all of the Matco boys looked at it and said everything we learned in testing we can throw out the window we gotta come in and focus and make this better.

“They put their heads down and they go ‘we have nothing to lose’. This is the last race before the Countdown and we’re not going out by just half-stepping it. We’re going to give it our full effort and they weren’t scared. That’s the same mindset we have to have going into the Countdown. We are just practicing it right now. So did our teammate (Schumacher) and his U.S. Army car. They had the same thought process. We stepped up to the plate and there were some great runs in that session.

“Tomorrow it’s going to be cooler. Track conditions are going to be even better. We have a run to work off of now because I guarantee you tomorrow in the first round with Morgan Lucas it’s going to be a tough, tough matchup.

“That’s like a final round match-up in the first round. It’s probably going to take a mid 3.70 out there tomorrow morning to get the job done if the conditions are what we think they are going to be.”

Round 1: ANTRON BROWN (3.985 sec., 316.60 mph) def. Khalid alBalooshi (7.672, 78.80); Steve 311.77) def. Bob Vandergriff (4.219, 245.54); Shawn Langdon (3.874, 316.60) def. Brittany Force (3.866, 313.22).Torrence (3.878, 316.02) def. TONY SCHUMACHER (3.904, 316.90); SPENCER MASSEY (3.931, 311.77) def. Bob Vandergriff (4.219, 245.54).
Semifinals: Torrence (3.815, 325.61) def. MASSEY (4.392, 198.58); Langdon (3.821, 322.34) def. BROWN (3.880, 316.08).
Final: Langdon (3.821 320.05) def. Torrence (3.828 323.04).

No. 1 qualifier: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.811, 320.58

Qualified: No. 1
First-round opponent: Morgan Lucas
Session 1: 4.806 sec., 138.80 mph
Session 2 (Shootout round 1): 3.985, 301.67
Session 3 (Shootout semis): 3.880, 316.08 (lost)
Session 4: 3.811, 320.58

Monday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations

Monday: High 82; 20 percent chance of rain

ON ESPN2 (time is EDT)
Monday: Championship eliminations, noon-6 p.m.